One July day a long time ago, a young boy sat on a hot beach on a red plaid blanket all alone. His hair was blond by birth and had become bleached to white spikes from the sun.

That same sun warmed him, and he knew if he didn’t get into the shade soon, he’d get badly sunburned. He remembered being sunburned once. Even though he had been so very young, he remembered the pain of the burn, how long it took to heal and how he couldn’t move or lie down without suffering. He remembered his mother and her deep concern, and how she’d covered him in cool lotions and how good that had felt, so soothing, and he remembered her holding his hand so very gently.

The young boy looked around and saw scrubby trees way off in the distance at the edge of the beach. He stood, gathered up his red plaid blanket and a small bag filled with food, water and some lotion to protect him from the sun. He walked to the trees and put the blanket down on the lumpy ground, so he could sit there in the shade and be safe from the white-orange, burning ball in the sky. The trees were short, gnarled and twisted from living for years in the wind off the ocean, but he was small and could easily sit beneath them.

The boy was content there in the shade. He would still be able to watch and hear the waves even from that distance, and so that’s what he did.

The pig was small and quite pink, as pigs are when they’re young, and it waddled along the beach, snuffling the sand with his snout as it went. Occasionally the waves would reach its tiny pointed feet and startled, it’d jump away from the foamy water with a small grunt. Even from the distance, the boy could see that on the pig’s body there was yellow and white and spiky hair, just like the hair on the boy’s head, too. He wondered if the pig’s hair felt like his.

He wanted to call to the pig but realized he didn’t know how. Do you call a pig the way you call a dog? He sat in the dappled shade and wondered, squinting his eyes at the brilliant white beach and watched the heat waves and squiggles rise from the sand’s surface.

The pig kept walking and snuffling. It was alone on that vast beach and it left a trail of small pointed hoofprints as it waddled along. The boy shielded his eyes from the sun and watched the pig and finally knew he had to get that small pig out of the sun or its skin, too, would burn badly, just the way the boy’s had so long ago. He shuddered at the memory.

“How can I call him if he has no name?” he thought, and then said aloud “I shall call him Neptune.”

“Neptune!” he called. “Come over here out of the sun. Come here, Neptune!”

The little pig stopped and looked across the beach at the boy now standing in the shade of those bent old trees. It blinked in the blinding sunlight and then with small steps, it began to walk toward the boy, shaking its head occasionally as it went, its big pointed ears flopping. Even from the front, the young boy could see the pig’s curly tail sticking up, and he grinned.

“Come on, Neptune!” the boy called. “Don’t be afraid. I won’t hurt you, I promise. I have a little bit of food here and a small bottle of water and I’ll share it if you’ll come over here and sit with me.” And then softly, “I’m all alone Neptune.”

The small pig began to trot toward the boy. As it got closer, the little boy sat down on his red plaid blanket, knowing if he looked smaller, the little pig maybe wouldn’t fear him.

Neptune moved close to the boy, even stepping on the red plaid blanket. The boy smiled and talked softly to him and finally, carefully, he reached out and touched the hair on the pig. It felt coarser than his own. 

And it was then he realized the pig had in fact gotten badly sunburned. He reached into his small bag and pulled out the lotion and began to stroke it over the pig’s back. It was cool to his touch, and he knew it was cool to the little pig, too, and that it felt soothing on his skin just as it had felt when his mother had spread it on the boy’s sunburned skin to heal it so long ago. The boy gave the pig some of his food and water, and then Neptune and he curled together on the red plaid blanket in the shade on that shining beach edging that beautiful ocean, and they slept.

LC can be reached [email protected]